City Judge Jeff Courtney sentenced Beverly Roberts, 85, and Mary Alston, 61, each to 2 years of unsupervised probation and 10 days in jail. The jail sentence was suspended. They were also ordered to each pay $100 in fines, plus court costs.
Roberts was found guilty of criminal trespassing and disorderly conduct. Alston was convicted of criminal trespassing and interfering with governmental operations. The charges stemmed from an interaction the women had with police after refusing to stop feeding cats and leave the area.
The verdict came after a five-and-a-half hour city trial Tuesday in Elmore County, just north of Montgomery, Alabama. Defense attorneys for the two women say they will appeal the verdict. They have 14 days to do so.
The women were known to local officials for feeding and trapping stray cats in the city. Both paid to neuter the cats and have them adopted or returned to the area where they were trapped. Their efforts were done to reduce the population of stray cats, their attorneys argued during the proceedings.
The case has received national attention from animal rights groups that say the treatment of the women was unduly harsh given the circumstances.
On the morning of June 25, Alston was questioned by police while sitting in her car in a vacant lot owned by Elmore County. Roberts arrived at the site later.
Police told Alston to leave the site, saying the city didn't want her feeding cats. Both women noted that feeding the cats on public property was not illegal, but their disagreement with police escalated. Both were ultimately arrested and taken to Elmore County Jail.
During the proceedings, attorneys representing the women, Terry Luck and William Shashy, argued the trespass charges were invalid because feeding stray cats isn't against the law in Wetumpka. And since the original charge should be deemed invalid, the follow-up charges of disorderly conduct and obstructing governmental operations would be baseless.
The defense attorneys painted the women as animal lovers who were reaching into their own pockets to meet a need, sweet ladies who didn't deserve the treatment they received.
The city's police chief previously told the Montgomery Advertiser, part of the USA TODAY Network, the women were creating a "nuisance" by feeding the cats, and could easily have avoided an arrest just by following repeated directions by police not to feed the animals.
"When you feed cats, more cats come to the area," Police Chief Greg Benton said after the arrest. "If they had heeded those repeated warnings, they would not have been arrested."
Police have said the women were warned repeatedly not to feed the cats and still kept doing it. Both were trespassed from the area.
Officer Jason Crumpton testified that he "had no intentions" of arresting the women. He said the women gave him no choice after they failed to follow directions and leave the area.
Body cameras worn by the officers captured their interactions with the two women and their arrests.
Luck, one of the defense attorneys, said officers used “physical abuse” when arresting the women and the incident never should have occurred. Both women complained about getting bruises on their arms and around their wrists during the arrests.
“There was absolutely no reason for any of this to happen,” Luck previously told the Montgomery Advertiser. “They were feeding (expletive) cats. They were trapping the cats to take them to be fixed. Beverly and Mary were actually helping the city out. By getting the cats spayed or neutered, they were helping to control the population of the feral cats."
This article originally appeared on Montgomery Advertiser: Wetumpka, Alabama jury finds 2 women guilty after feeding stray cats